Happy World Down Syndrome Day! In honour of today I wanted to explore the communication development of children with Down Syndrome. All children develop differently, and no two children with a diagnosis of Down Syndrome will follow the exact same path towards developing communication. There are, however, some common areas of communication strengths and difficulty that many children with Down Syndrome may experience.
Children with Down Syndrome often have strong social skills and are keen to interact and communicate with others. From infancy, they enjoy other people and very interested in interaction. Many children with Down Syndrome will also develop strengths in their ability to make friends, show empathy and understand non-verbal social cues, like body language and facial expressions.
Kids with Down Syndrome may also have strengths in the development of their vocabulary. While early language tends to be delayed, once children with Down Syndrome begin communicating using words, signs and/or AAC, they often acquire large and varied vocabularies.
Children with Down Syndrome often find it much easier to learn to communicate through signing than by spoken words, especially in the early years. Being good visual learners with a strong desire t communicate makes signing a great communication tool for little ones with Down Syndrome.
If you want to learn more about using sign language with your little one, check out my post on why you should use sign language with late talkers here.
Relative Strengths in Receptive Language
While it is common for children with Down Syndrome to experience some receptive language delays, their receptive language is often much stronger than their expressive language by comparison. As a result, children with Down Syndrome will often understand a lot more than they are able to communicate.
Delayed Early Communication
Delays in early communication development, especially spoken language, are a common experience for children with Down Syndrome. The average age range for children with Down Syndrome to develop their first word is between 18 and 30 months, and the use of spoken language as the predominant method of communicating may not happen until up to 6 years of age for some of our friends with Down Syndrome.
Difficulty using appropriate grammar is a common observation of the communication of children with Down Syndrome. They may experience difficulty learning syntax rules like correct word order, subject-verb agreement and how to form phrases and clauses. Children with Down Syndrome may also find it difficult to use appropriate word changes (morphology), like correct verb tenses, plurals, pronouns, etc.
Children with Down Syndrome often have significant difficulty with the intelligibility (clarity) of their speech, and may be difficult to understand. As a result of differences in oral structure, muscle tone and/or movement coordination, children with Down Syndrome may experience difficulty producing sounds clearly and accurately.
One Final Note…
While communication difficulties are common for many children with Down Syndrome, there’s no limit to what they can achieve, and we’re excited to celebrate that today.